Without a phone, it’s difficult to find a job. It’s impossible to stay in touch with family and friends. In fact, home and cell phones have become indispensable tools of modern life. They’re no longer merely luxuries.
However, it can be difficult to afford these services on top of your other bills. If you’re struggling to pay your home phone or cell phone bill, there is help available.
The Lifeline Program
The Lifeline program is not a grant, but it does offer a means for low-income families to ensure that they have home and cell phone service without breaking the bank.
•What Does It Do?
The Lifeline program offers access to discounted home phone and cell phone service for those who meet the eligibility requirements. It is offered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), but actually operated by the Universal Service Administrative Company. Note that this program works with both landline phones and cellular phones.
•Who Is Eligible?
In order to be eligible for the Lifeline program, you must earn 135% or less than the federal poverty line. You must also be on Medicaid, SNAP, or SSI, or you must participate in Section 8 housing or the Head Start program. Additionally, those living on tribal land may also qualify. Anyone receiving a federal veterans pension may also qualify for this program.
Are There Limitations on Fund Usage?
To be clear, you are not given funds with this program. It is strictly a discount on landline and cell phone service to ensure that you are able to afford them. Rather than a grant, this is actually a subsidy program and the subsidies offered are delivered directly to the phone company or mobile carrier.
•How Much Is Available in Grants?
The discount amount is based strictly on your income, so the amount available will vary from family to family. If you do not meet the income requirements, the program will not be made available to you.
•What Are the Limitations and Terms?
There are some limitations and terms to understand here. For one, you will need to recertify every year in order to continue with the Lifeline program. You can recertify here. This is done to ensure that once your financial situation changes for the better, you begin paying for these services on your own so that funds are available for others in need.
It’s also important to note that this is not a free phone service. If you’re not able to afford a cell phone at all, you should contact your state social service agency for more information about cell phone donation programs and charities in your area.
•How Do You Apply for This Grant?
Applying for the Lifeline program is relatively simple, although you’ll need a few documents prior to starting.
First, you will need to find a company in your area that participates in the Lifeline program. You can do that with this online locator tool. Once you’ve located a company, contact them (or visit the office in person) and obtain an application for the Lifeline program. You will need your basic contact information, as well as the last four digits of your Social Security number or tribal ID number.
You will need to show either a valid driver’s license, your Social Security card, last year’s tax return, or another document that proves your identity, such as a birth certificate or valid passport. Finally, you will need to provide documentation that supports your income claims, including pay stubs or tax returns. Additionally, you will need to show that you are enrolled in SNAP, Medicaid, Section 8 or SSI, as well.